My favorite superheroes growing up were (and still are) the most human ones, Batman and Ironman. These were the heroes whose superpower was delegating the right tasks to the right people, all of whom were clever problem solvers whose talents, loyalty, and quick thinking helped their dynamic bosses achieve great things.
Delegating counts as a superpower because it’s hard to do, especially for the type of driven, dynamic, self-motivated people who go into business for themselves. At the same time, when your power is only as great as your ability to do productive work, the inability to delegate can turn you into your own arch-nemesis, draining your power, and putting your productivity at risk.
Little tasks add up to big losses in productivity.
Recently, I was thinking about the work I do, and comparing it to the work I could be doing to help my clients — most of whom are small business owners — and it occurred to me that most of them still think they have to have something big for me to do, or it won’t be worth my time, or their money to pay me to do it.
Take a look at what the author, Gabriel Weinberg calls his “abridged” list of 20 tasks he asked his Virtual Assistant to perform over a six-week period. I found the list just searching the term “Virtual Assistant.”
- Find me a high-quality black yoga mat on Amazon Prime.
- Find me replacement hardware for this Restoration Hardware table.
- Schedule an oven repair given these error codes.
- Make dinner reservations tonight.
- Schedule our regular painter to come out and give us an estimate.
- Schedule our car to go in for a recall and mirror replacement.
- Find out why our corporate filing never went through.
- Find the gross profit margin, revenue and # of users for a variety of tech companies.
- Buy us a membership at a local kids museum.
- Sign us up for sewer insurance.
- Help me find an interview of Ira Glass interviewing Terry Gross.
- Get a kick-plate for our new fridge, which was missing from the packaging.
- Research co-working spaces in Brooklyn given some parameters.
- Figure out how to replace the glass on a phone cheaply.
- Figure out how to replace a custom wood vent in our house.
- Schedule our other car to go in for a battery and radio fix.
- Find a place to donate some specific furniture to.
- Schedule our regular electrician to come out.
- Fix a messed up order with Verizon FIOS.
- Schedule a shower door company to come out and give us an estimate.
He doesn’t say how much time each of those tasks either took the Virtual Assistant, or would have taken him to complete, but let’s imagine each one took about an hour. Some probably took more, some probably took less, but let’s go with that for the purpose of the point I’m about to make. As you can see, plenty of these were personal tasks that were probably getting in the way of Gabriel’s ability to get work done, in part because many of them still needed to get done during regular business hours.
OK, so at one hour per task, times twenty tasks, we end up with twenty HOURS of potentially billable time saved for Gabriel.
Apply that to your life, or your work…What does that mean in dollars and cents? What about stress, distraction, rebound time (the time it takes you to refocus on work after taking that hour to go do something other than work), etcetera?
Suddenly the list seems far from petty, it seems pretty major doesn’t it?
But what if you’re a control freak?
Hey, look, I don’t mean that to sound like a dig, really. I understand what it’s like to think no one could possibly do things as quickly or as well as you could, I tend to think the same way! But see here’s the thing: so what if it’s true? What if no one can do it as well as you can? Does it still follow that no one else should do it? Even Batman had Robin, am I right?
What if someone can do it 95% as well as you would, but the 5% loss in perceived greatness is made up for in time or money saved for you? Aren’t there other things you could be controlling, or doing “better” than everyone else that pay better, or pay at all?
And here’s something else to consider: what if someone else could do it better than you? I mean, what if you’re wrong? There is that chance, right? As awesome as Tony Stark was, there were things that Pepper was just better at, right?
What if there’s someone out there who spends her days doing nothing BUT this type of work, who’s made it her business (literally) to get those kinds of tasks done quickly, and exceptionally well, to the point where she has resources at her fingertips you’d have to hunt to find? What if she’s done the same things for other clients this month, or this week, and now you get to benefit from that experience, whereas you’ll be doing whatever it is for the first time–or at least the first time in a long while?
The point is, I understand it takes an ability to “let go” to hire help. It’s not just about the money, it’s about the perception that you can do it all, or that you should do it all. Chances are, as a small business owner or entrepreneur, you’ve used that perception to your advantage — it may even be the main reason you went into business for yourself in the first place — but if you ask successful people about some of the things that helped them take their businesses to the next level, invariably you’ll hear something along the lines of “I learned how to delegate.”
Make time for the work that really matters.
Although it was published about a year ago, this Harvard Business Review article is still spot-on. Researchers Julian Birkinshaw and Jordan Cohen spent three years studying how knowledge workers could become more productive, and they found the answer was simple:
“Eliminate or delegate unimportant tasks and replace them with value-added ones. Our research indicates that knowledge workers spend a great deal of their time—an average of 41%—on discretionary activities that offer little personal satisfaction and could be handled competently by others. So why do they keep doing them? Because ridding oneself of work is easier said than done. We instinctively cling to tasks that make us feel busy and thus important, while our bosses, constantly striving to do more with less, pile on as many responsibilities as we’re willing to accept.”
Now I realize their research was focused on “knowledge workers,” but if you think about it, the same applies to anyone who has the same types of “discretionary activities” to take care of. They could be things like the ones on Gabriel’s list, or they could be less personal, more business-related tasks, like answering email, or making appointments, or updating social media accounts. Whatever bogs you down, or gets pushed to the back burner could go on this list, but so could those things you find yourself doing that you just plain hate?
Just because your day isn’t filled with “billable” work that gets you paid, doesn’t mean it couldn’t be, or that you’re not squandering valuable time and energy checking things off your list that someone else could be doing instead. What if you’re just “busy,” and not really “productive?”
8 things you should consider delegating today.
If the list above doesn’t inspire you, or is too specific, consider the following list from Entrepreneur.com:
- Tasks that keep you from growing your business.
- Activities that will help you speed up cashflow
- Areas that are out of your wheelhouse.
- Tasks that are already streamlined.
- Tasks in areas with often-changing regulations.
- Projects that impede development.
- Anything you want your team to learn.
- The stuff you simply hate to do.
The article goes into detail explaining what falls into each of the above buckets, and while not all can be delegated to a Virtual Assistant, many can.
You may not be a Millionaire (or in Tony Stark’s case, a Billionaire), but that doesn’t mean you can’t develop delegating superpower. All you have to do is hire the right “Virtual” Assistant, and before you know it, you’ll be your own superhero, saving your business from time-bandits and productivity thieves!
To find out how I can help you delegate tasks so you can make time for the work that really matters to you, get in touch today and I’ll craft a perfect plan to harness YOUR superpowers!